So, in alphabetical order, here are the judges for NHK Trophy 2015:
Erin can be found blogging at On Stage and Screen or on Twitter.
Joe writes at the Huffington Post and may be best known in the figure skating community for their piece on Skate America. They can also be found on Twitter.
Kathy video recaps skating events at Lutz and Glory with fellow judges Bronwyn (Skate Canada 2015) and Will (NHK 2015). She's also on Twitter.
Phillip can be found on Twitter. Special thanks to Phillip for being a part of our original TEB 2015 judging team and for jumping over to NHK 2015.
Will video recaps skating events at Lutz and Glory with fellow judges Bronwyn (Skate Canada 2015) and Kathy (NHK 2015). He's also on Twitter.
Find out more about the judges here!
LET'S GET JUDGING. When you're finished reading, leave a comment to let us know what you thought about NHK, how you think the real judges did, and how you think our judges did. If you disagree, sign up to judge an event later in the year and share your thoughts!
Erin: Everything except the first group of pairs' SP and first group of ladies' FS.
Joe: All of it! About half live on IceNetwork and the other half (unspoiled) on YouTube.
Kathy: All of ladies and dance, 75% of men and pairs
Phillip: All of it
Will: Hmmm, well I fell asleep every time I tried to watch live, so I'd say, as timing would have it, I watched all of pairs, All of SD and last group of FD, top 4-5 Men, and all of the Ladies.
Who had the best performance of the event?
Erin: I mean, is this even a question this week? Yuzuru Hanyu completely redefined the gold standard for men's figure skating. He made me happy to have stayed up way past my bedtime 2 nights in a row to witness his record-breaking performances live. Also, shoutout to Satoko Miyahara, who in addition to turning in two solid skates truly performed and connected with the audience more than she ever has before.
Phillip: Easily Yuzuru Hanyu had both of the best performances, which deserved their World Record scores. The free program was especially well skated: flow, passion, intricate foot and body work, speed and an extremely high level of technical content. I don't always find Hanyu to have the best stretch or hit the most complete positions, but I don't know how anyone could deny this free program was one of those moments that will go down in skating history. The potential "downside" is that we are only at the midway point in the season. Can he really top this?
My honorable mention has to go to Grant Hochstein, who also had the free skate of his life. Ending 4th in this tough field is a major accomplishment, and he's making his presence known just in time for U.S. Nationals.
Honorable Mention: Shibutanis' FD. Chills and tears everywhere. Not quite the same aggression or alacrity as they had at Skate Canada, but I am SO excited for this team, especially after having scored the highest combined score for a dance team this season. They are not to be forgotten about neither this season nor for seasons to come.
Erin: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have never been favorites of mine, but I've noticed a marked improvement in their skating this season. Maybe it's the coaching change and the fact that they have better programs than they've ever had before (especially that beautiful short dance), but I thought they looked quite strong here.
Erin: I think Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres have great command over the ice, more so than the two teams who finished just ahead of them. The invalidated spin in the short was unfortunate and cost them a trip to the Final, and maybe being in the first group in the free skate played a role in their lower PCS marks - while they did finish 4th in the free skate, I would have had them 4th by a larger margin.
Erin: I actually found most of the judging here to be pretty fair in terms of the standings. I did, however, find some of the GOEs awarded to be highly questionable. Yuzuru's quad sal in the short had a bit of a shaky landing and I don't feel was deserving of the positive GOE it ended up with. I would have given it a neutral 0. I also found Boyang Jin's PCS in the free skate to be about 2-3 points too high.
So my most overscored performance has to to Boyang Jin's free skate. Bravo to the reasonable judge who gave him sixes. Boo to the others who were giving him 8+. While this young man seriously has jumping talent, the rest of his skating is lacking. He rarely is skating using his whole core strength or his body fully, his elements are not particularly placed in any interesting pattern, his interpretation is lacking, his spins and edges are only acceptable. He's got time to develop, but I don't want to see someone rewarded strictly on what they could possibly be, but what truly is out there on the ice right now. Giving him marks so high now really is not incentive to develop into the more complete skater he could become. Jin's PCS marks here were comparable to Shoma Uno's at Skate America... Sorry, there is no comparison as to who the more complete skater is of these two young, amazing talents.
ZIJUUUUUUUNNNNNN YOU ARE SO LOVELY!!!!!!!!!! YOUR CHOREO AND SUBTLE ARTISTRY MAKES ME SCREAM BUT PLEASE ROTATE YOUR JUMPS!!!!!!!
In all seriousness, Zijun Li is one of the most musical skaters I have ever seen, and it's so unfortunate, as a diehard fan of hers, to see her place in the bottom half of most fields she enters. She appeared to be resurging towards the end of last season, and I really hope she can rekindle that fire soon. Her SP here was a huge step in the right direction, but it's only half the battle.
Erin: Grant Hochstein was definitely the surprise of the Grand Prix in terms of our US men, finishing 4th at both of his events with career-best performances. If he skates like this at Nationals, I could see him challenging for the podium. Similarly, I think the Shibutanis are really having a moment this year and received the highest total score of any dance team on the Grand Prix this season. If they're in the mix for the podium at the Final, it could make things very interesting as they head into Nationals.
Joe: Probably the Shibutanis. If they can manage a top three placement at the Grand Prix Final, they will make a very strong case for a national championship and/or a world medal this year. Politics aside, their programs this year are such high quality that I believe this is achievable. Also, if Scimeca/Knierem can perform well and place in the top four or so at the Grand Prix Final, they would definitely prove the haters wrong. Same goes for Satoko Miyahara, who I think many believe won NHK by default and is not looking super solid (since so many other contenders faltered.)
Kathy: The Shibutanis. I have no doubt that their win here will be great for their confidence, since they've been counted out for so long and many people had written off their legacy as being forever "second-best" among the American dance teams. If they can continue to deliver performances like the ones here for the rest of the season, they have a real shot of emerging from under the shadow of Chock/Bates and even claiming a national title. As phenomenal as that free dance is, I don't think it's done improving. If it can bring me to tears now, I fully expect it to leave me on my knees by the time Maia and Alex are through with it.
Phillip: The Grand Prix Final is going to be a preview of U.S. Nationals in ice dance. If the Shibutani's can upset Chock/Bates there, they seem poised to win their first national title. However, one has to think Igor Shpilband is working on getting Chock/Bates' levels improved in their free dance and that a battle royale is in the making.
Will: I must say, Ashley Wagner has the most to gain. After delivering two subpar performances, by her standards and my standards, Wagner will be looking to come back with a vengeance at the Grand Prix Final. I predict that she'll be roaring back, guns a blazin' in Barcelona. Better she get out these types of performances here than at US Nationals or Worlds, though I will say that Gracie is in tippy top form this season and will pounce on the most minor of infractions from Wagner. This, though, knowing Ashley, should only add fuel to her competitive fire, making for an exciting latter half of the season in the American ladies field.
Erin: It pains me to say this, but Ashley Wagner. She's been on the podium at the Final the past three years and she's really going to have to bring it to keep up that streak. It's also going to be a pre-Nationals showdown between her and Gracie, and whoever comes out on top will definitely be the favorite heading into St. Paul. Also, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have been a bit off this season. They've been undefeated for 9 straight international events, but the Final is going to be much tougher competition than they've faced so far this fall. Now's the time to step it up.
Joe: If Anna Pogorilaya can't hold it together at Russian Nationals, her season is over. She needs to fight to make it back to Worlds for a third year in a row. If Alena Leonova can't make the top six there, I'd argue her career is over. Leonova in particular seems to be treading water this season so the stakes are very high. If Mirai Nagasu doesn't clean up the jumps and bring a bit more energy to her free skate footwork in particular at nationals, I think she'll also be at a career crossroads.
Kathy: Duhamel/Radford. Last season they easily won every competition they entered, but even then they weren't always perfect. This season they continue to be somewhat inconsistent, especially with their difficult throw quad jumps, but they're also facing tougher competition. This is a team known for their technical arsenal, and although their artistry has improved significantly, they still have some catching up to do. At the Grand Prix Final, any mistakes they make could add up quickly and possibly cost them gold, especially against Sui/Han, Kavaguti/Smirnov, and Stolbova/Klimov, each with impressive programs of their own.
Phillip: As reigning World Champions, Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford are pushing the sport technically. But as witnessed here, the judges aren't going to shower them with amazing PCS if they are not skating clean. Sui/Han, Stolbova/Klimov, Kawagati/Smirnov all have the potential to over take them at the GPF. They have the skills to win it all, they just need to keep their nerves in check and get the job done.
Will: Yuzu. It may be difficult for Yuzu to emulate this caliber of performance, but if nothing else, it will certainly prove to be, at the very, very least, an intimidation factor for Yuzu's contemporaries, namely Patrick Chan, who was the world record holder for total score before this weekend. Having said that, Yuzu has to stay on his game, because you know the expectations of the judges and his fans, myself included, have sky rocketed after this weekend.
Erin: Max Aaron will be US National champion once again. Mao will fail to make the podium at the Grand Prix Final. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot will win a medal at their first Worlds. And, this one might be more wishful thinking, but I think the Shibutanis have a solid chance to win Nationals, especially if Chock/Bates make mistakes as they have been this season.
Joe: I think the Shibutanis will medal at Worlds. They've captured lightning in a bottle this season and it's going to pay off.
Kathy: Only one Russian lady will make the podium at the Grand Prix Final.
Phillip: Despite the return of Patrick Chan, I am not currently envisioning any North American man on the podium at Worlds
Will: The Shibutanis will win the Grand Prix Final, US Nationals, and Worlds and will rule as our Overlords, alongside Karen Chen, for eternity.
Erin: I think it's going to be a very, very long time. The stars really aligned for Yuzuru here—performances like that, especially two of them in one event, usually only come along a couple times at most in a skater's career. We've seen Yuzuru land a quad loop outside of competition. If he ups his technical content even more in the coming years, it's certainly possible he could beat his own record again, but still unlikely. I honestly don't think any other man currently on the competitive circuit is capable of breaking this record, but it's definitely possible some young kid we haven't met yet is.
Joe: I don't think anyone besides Hanyu will break these records within the next year or two. I think someone like Boyang Jin could do it if his PCS improve in the next few years. If anyone achieves it, they will need at least three different quads or an innate artistry that is rare in the sport these days (and generally takes years to develop). I can't see anyone besides Hanyu topping any of the records before 2018.
Phillip: Even putting on my Miss Cleo wig and staring into a tarot deck for hours I cannot come up with an answer for when this new world record will be broken. I don't think it takes a psychic to predict that with the current scoring system in place it will be almost entirely dependent on jumps. Footwork is crazily undervalued considering this one element which takes up as much as 10%+ of someone's program time and has only a base value for level four steps of under 4 points.
Will: Mirai Nagasu will make the World team and score 330 total in Boston. Oops.
Anything else to add about this event?
Erin: It is always so wonderful to see the amazing, packed crowds at events in Japan. Figure skating fans worldwide need to learn from their example. Also, I'd like the ISU to amend the rule allowing lyrics to forbid spoken dialogue. I've yet to see it not be tacky. Finally, if the ladies' free skate depressed you as it did me (aside from Satoko, who is fabulous), just watch Yuzuru again. It helps.
Joe: I'm going to blame Ashley Wagner for this, but I am so sick of all the Moulin Rouge programs this year! Folks, this movie is 14 years old! Not exactly the most fresh musical selection, and some of the selections are so cheesy (Come What May, in particular) it's nauseating to hear this often. Same goes for Les Miserables (did not enjoy the "Bring Him Home" choice Hochstein made). Branch out with music please, everyone!
Kathy: Domo was probably my favorite skater at this competition. Shame about the falls, but really, for me they didn't detract at all from the performance quality! In addition, I was pretty disappointed at Ashley Wagner and Mao Asada's performances here (note, not disappointed IN, everyone's human), but I look forward to them skating with a vengeance at the GPF. ;)
Phillip: It's "easy" to judge and hard to skate. For many of these talents we won't see much of them outside of their respective nationals. Some may make it to Europeans or 4 Continents or Worlds, some of these skaters won't. Wherever their path takes them for the rest of this season, I wish them good health and continued improvement and good luck.
Will: Mirai!! What a lovely set of program she turned in this weekend, I hope she continues to improve from here. I had so much fun watching NHK and can't wait for the rest of the season!!
What did you think about NHK 2015? How did our judges do? Leave us a comment to let us know, then sign up to judge a future event!